Mass. approves Northeast Utilities-NStar merger

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“Massachusetts regulators approved Northeast Utilities’ proposed $5 billion purchase of Boston-based NStar on Wednesday, clearing the way for the formation of one of the biggest U.S. utility companies with 3.5 million electric and gas customers in three states.

The state Department of Public Utilities approved the NStar purchase two days after Connecticut regulators approved the deal.

The two states had already negotiated agreements with the companies that set the stage for these approvals. In Massachusetts, Northeast Utilities and NStar agreed – among other things – to give ratepayers a $21 million credit and to buy more than a quarter of the power that would be produced by the proposed Cape Wind offshore wind farm as conditions of the deal.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration said the onetime credit would equal $7 to $11 for typical residential customers in Massachusetts. But the Cape Wind deal could eliminate those savings within a year, as it would cost customers at least $1 a month after the wind farm is built in Nantucket Sound.

Patrick, in a meeting with Ledger editors on Monday, defended the concession, saying the extra cost for Cape Wind is a small price to pay as most power plant fuels typically cost more in New England because the region doesn’t have any significant fossil fuel resources.

“I think it’s good for us environmentally, economically … and symbolically as being the home to the first major offshore wind project in America,” Patrick said.

But the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound issued a statement slamming the administration, calling the Cape Wind concession a example of the Patrick administration sacrificing the local economy to promote a pet project. …”

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